As the date nears for Astana's meeting with the UCI Licensing Commission to discuss the team’s WorldTour license, Kazakhstan Cycling Federation President Darkhan Kaletaev says the team's organisation will go into the hearing not as defendants, but rather as stakeholders in UCI President Brian Cookson's drive to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from the sport.
Late last month, the UCI requested that Astana's licence be revoked following an audit of the team. The Licensing Commission is due to begin its decision making process on April 2, with the team invited to appear before the three judges on Thursday to answer questions.
In a statement released Monday, Kaletaev said that the team's past failures could mean that the Astana is considered guilty until proven innocent.
"We are under no illusions that this scrutiny is the price to pay for sustained success and for past mistakes," he said. "And perhaps it is correct that the burden of proof lies equally upon both the participants and the governing body.
"This is why Astana Pro Team is determined to follow the UCI and WADA codes, to help push anti-doping compliance forward with our own pro-active innovations and to help rid professional cycling of the biggest threat to its integrity, funding and future."
Kaletaev emphasised that Astana's anti-doping policies were previously deemed compliant when the commission approved the team's license in December, and he said the team's zero-tolerance policy toward doping had been demonstrated repeatedly.
"As our great champion, Vincenzo Nibali, said himself, there was a profound sense of betrayal in the camp following the two positive cases in 2014 - a feeling that the mindless, selfish behaviour of these cheating athletes had arrested the exciting upwards trajectory of this team, in particular and of Kazakh cycling as a whole," Kaletaev said.
This sense of betrayal motivated the team to take further action that went "above and beyond" in the fight against doping, he said.
Steps the team took to enhance its own internal measures, Kaletaev said, included adding a digital communication platform that significantly strengthened out-of-competition tracking and reporting capabilities; and restructuring training teams so specific directors and doctors remain responsible for the same group of riders throughout the season.
In his statement, Kaletaev said the UCI and the international cycling community can count on the "total commitment" of general manager Alexander Vinokurov, team manager Giuseppe Martinelli, and himself to keep performance enhancing drugs out of the sport.
"That commitment will be laid down once again to the License Commission this week," he said. "We fully intend to demonstrate that the global fight against doping is stronger with the resources, passion and drive of Astana Pro Team behind it."
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